Thirty thousand feet above the Badlands
my mother looks out her window and says
'There's a car beside us.' She understands
for a moment that we are flying, prays
aloud for the pilot to find his way
through all this dark. Then she asks why
the chairs in our hotel are so small today.
She says there is something in my eye
and brushes her finger across the lid
of her own. Seeing the papery skin
loose on the back of her hand, its grid
of wrinkles, she blinks and asks again
how old she is. When I say she is ninety,
she looks away, sees the engine, turns
back and grabs my arm. She asks if I see
the car, then whispers that she yearns
to go upstairs to her room and invites
me to join her. There is nothing I can do
to help her through the long nights
ahead, nights strange as this afternoon
when we cross the country together.
Though she can no longer live alone,
I realize that no matter where my mother
lives now, she will always be alone
in a world forever gone wild in her mind.
Still thinking I am her last late boyfriend,
she leans closer, says 'you're always so kind
to me' and sighs as she pats my hand.
Reprinted with permission from the book Approximately Paradise (Tupelo, 2005).